National

Typhoon Jebi’s superstrong winds of over 216 kph drove tanker into Kansai airport bridge

JIJI

Winds of over 216 kph are believed to have caused a tanker to crash into Kansai International Airport’s access bridge when Typhoon Jebi hit Japan on Tuesday, Jiji Press learned Saturday.

The Houn Maru tanker was anchored about 2 km southeast of the man-made island on which the airport sits on Monday morning as the powerful typhoon was approaching, sources said.

The vessel started its engines around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in a bid to fight the powerful winds, which exceeded 72 kph second. Ultimately, however, the gusts were strong enough to move the anchored ship.

Around 1 p.m. the same day, the Japan Coast Guard’s Osaka Bay vessel traffic service center warned the tanker that it was being pushed by winds.

The center issued another warning to the ship a half hour later, but the tanker continued drifting until it smashed into the bridge around 1:45 p.m., according to the sources.

At that time, the ship’s wind gauge, which can measure up to 216 kph, had gone off the scale, indicating that the vessel had been pushed by even stronger winds.

That day at the airport, the maximum wind speed of 209.2 kph was registered at 1:38 p.m., a record high at that location.

The Japan Coast Guard advises ships to keep a distance of at least 5.5 km from the airport island during harsh weather. The Houn Maru captain, however, chose to anchor the tanker near the island, judging that the location was safer, the sources said.

“Winds of 216 kph are outrageous. Even anchored ships are pushed,” said Takahiro Takemoto, professor at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

The tanker captain should have taken into account the direction of the winds and anchored at a different place, Takemoto added.